The Curse of Knowledge

Church in Burlington, The Curse of Knowledge

Recently I listened to a very engaging podcast about something called The Curse of Knowledge. Have you heard that term? The curse of knowledge occurs when we assume that the person we’re speaking with has the background or the context to understand the content of what we’re saying. They might understand the words that are spoken but are missing information to make it relevant and meaningful.

How does the curse of knowledge manifest itself in church life?

A guest arrives for the first time with kids in tow. Where do they go? Where do their kids go, and when?

The curse of knowledge is that I know where to go, and how to check my kids into the program. If I’m a bit late, I don’t worry —  the doors will still be open, and the kids don’t actually start their program until 10:15.

We all know that.

The kids are dismissed for their program downstairs. A newcomer wonders what is ‘downstairs’, and when will they get their kids back?

The curse of knowledge is that I have seen the classrooms and I have met all the teachers. I know they are trained and amazing, and that my kids will be waiting to be picked up after the service.

We all know that.

Communion is set at the front of the church; will I have to walk up and get it or will it be delivered and, if so, do I take it right away or do I hang onto it? 

The curse of knowledge is that we celebrate communion every month, and there is rarely any variance in how we do it. They pray and pass the plates, while I sit and receive. 

We all know that.

Every time you find yourself saying, “We all know that!”, the curse of knowledge is rearing its ugly head. And to guests, the curse of knowledge can be awkward, ambiguous, confusing, and unwelcoming.

One of the many things I love about our Frontline Ministry team is that they help to break the curse of knowledge by keeping an eye out for guests and helping them to pre-navigate any obstacles.

You came alone and don’t know where to sit? No problem! Let me get you settled near someone who I know to be friendly. Heck, you can even sit with me!

You brought kids? They’ll love it here! Let’s go to the welcome centre and get them registered, then we’ll give you a quick tour of the kids min area. Maybe introduce you to Tanya, the best Children’s Director ever.

You came early to get the lay of the land? So glad you did! Have a cup of coffee or tea, and let me introduce you to a few people.

You came late because you're feeling nervous and unsure? We understand, and we’re watching for the rules of engagement so that we don’t overwhelm you.

Isn’t it great that we have a team of ushers, greeters and welcome centre people who can help overcome the curse of knowledge?

Well, I have a secret to tell you…

You don’t have to serve in an official capacity in order to fight the curse.

That's right, each one of us can play a vital role in the guest experience by keeping your eyes open, being available, and modelling for them what a typical Sunday looks like.

So write your name on the friendship clip. Pour yourself a coffee. Introduce your kids to their kids so they can be dismissed together to their class. If you are a Sunday School teacher, introduce yourself to the parents even if you’re not serving that particular Sunday. The next time they come you might be serving, and how awesome it will be when the kids have already met you!

The curse of knowledge is inevitable to some degree, but we can all play a part in breaking down barriers and helping our guests feel welcomed, loved, and in-the-know.

See you Sunday! The service starts at 10am and free coffee is served at 9:30am. We all know that...

Candi Thorpe

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